RE/MAX 440
Sandy Hershey

Sandy Hershey
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack  PA 19474
Phone:  610-909-2929
Office:  610-584-1160
Fax:  267-354-6987

My Blog

Smart Kitchen Improvements

July 2, 2014 12:12 am

The kitchen is the center of our lives at home, serving needs way beyond its intended culinary purpose. With so much activity on a daily basis, it’s important that kitchens are equipped with functional features. Make improvements with these five smart upgrades:

Quartz countertops – Move over, granite! Quartz countertops are gaining popularity due to a wide variety of styles and low maintenance costs. They don’t need to be sealed, and are naturally resistant to spills and stains.

Smart faucets – Gone are the days of the simple stream. Homeowners will save time and money with smart faucets that boast varying stream patterns and pressures to ensure just the right amount of water is used.

Charging stations – Think about how many gadgets homeowners plug in each day – and how much easier it would be if they could all be charged in one location. Whether it’s a freestanding station or installed directly into an island or cabinet drawer, having an area to charge all electronics keeps everything within arm’s reach.

Induction cooktops - Additional seating at an island has long been the norm, but installing an induction cooktop transforms the island into a fully functional workspace. They’re also a snap to clean, blending seamlessly with the surrounding countertop.

Wi-Fi appliances – The future of total home management. Save time with new appliances that come with Wi-Fi capabilities, such as electric wall ovens. Homeowners can preheat the oven ahead of time with a few keystrokes on their phone or tablet.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do Your Homework to Improve Your Mortgage Experience

July 1, 2014 1:39 am

I previously covered a report on which banks are making it easier for consumers to obtain credit and a mortgage, and provided a checklist to prepare when shopping for a mortgage.

So we'll conclude this little series of columns with some of the best practices Fannie Mae suggests once you have chosen a mortgage lender.

The agency suggests these tips to improve relations with lenders:

Get recommendations: Ask friends and family members for suggestions, especially if they've recently obtained a loan.

Check credentials: Mortgage bankers are regulated by either your state's department of banking or division of real estate. Check with the one appropriate to your state to see if a lender is in good professional standing. Mortgage brokers may be state regulated or not. If not, check with the local chapter of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers or the Better Business Bureau to see if their record is clean.

Do your homework: Learn about typical mortgages and ask questions when something looks amiss; a broker may be trying to pad closing costs or other fees at your expense.

Take care online:
There are plenty of attractive deals online, but first make sure you're dealing with a reliable broker or lender.
The National Consumer Law Center also recommends borrowers understand how much a broker is making from the lender, as well as from any fees a borrower might be paying. And the Center suggests borrowers get this information upfront and in writing.

Avoid a broker who appears to be double-dipping or getting a premium from the lender, as well as borrower/client fees.

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) requires lenders to give borrowers information on all closing costs and escrow account practices. Any business relationships between the lender and closing service providers or other parties to the transaction must also be disclosed.

Consumers are reminded that many fees are negotiable. For more information on home buying and mortgages, visit Fannie Mae's website or call 202-752-7000.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Green Clean Your Home

July 1, 2014 1:39 am

(BPT) - It's not necessary to use harsh chemicals and toxins to achieve a cleaner, fresh-smelling home. Homemade cleaning products and earth-friendly tactics can help you clean green. Be kind to Mother Nature with these ideas:

1. Begin by decluttering, which requires no chemicals at all.
As you're disposing of items you no longer need or want, be mindful of ways to keep them out of the waste stream. Donating gently used but no-longer-needed items such as clothing, furniture and books is a great way to reduce waste while cutting clutter.

2. Stock up on natural cleaning supplies.
Natural supplies such as as lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils, baking and washing soda, Borax, white distilled vinegar, spray and squeeze bottles, natural bristle scrubbing brushes, old newspaper, cotton dusting cloths and hemp or jute fiber scrubbing cloths.

3. Clean windows and floors to instantly brighten your house inside and out.
A simple solution of white vinegar and water (about two tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water) makes an effective, low-cost and green window cleaner. Spritz on windows using a spray bottle and use newspaper instead of paper towels for a streak-free clean. Don't like the smell of vinegar? Lemon juice works just as well.

Pull out the white vinegar again to mix up a great floor cleaner that works well on surfaces from hardwood to vinyl to tile. You'll need to add three or four cups of vinegar to about a gallon of hot water.

4. Prepare a multi-purpose cleaner to freshen surfaces throughout your home.

Mix two tablespoons of unscented liquid soap with four drops of lemon essential oil and two drops of tea tree essential oil. Pour the mixture into a gallon of warm water. Use this multi-purpose solution with a sponge mop or rag to remove dirt from floors and hard surfaces such as countertops and appliances.

5. Make your own air freshener.
Instead of chemical air fresheners that can irritate allergy sufferers, make your own room fresheners using cotton balls soaked in essential oil. Store in decorative ceramic dishes out of reach of children and pets.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easy Ways for Families to Save

July 1, 2014 1:39 am

(Family Features) The average family is always looking for ways to save a little bit of cash. While some efforts to save money may seem small and insignificant, it’s beneficial to look at the big picture. By saving here and there where you can, the amount can really start to add up. Here are several ideas for families who wish to be wiser with their dollars.

Buy used
From clothing to cars, you can typically find a gently used version of something you need at a much better price. Look for specialty stores who sell used video games for the little ones. Or, if you’re in the market for furniture or unique gifts, the local antique dealer or flea market is a great place to check out.

Cut back on entertainment
Do you have a cable package with all the bells and whistles? Is your entire family on a first-name basis at the local movie theater? Consider reducing your entertainment expenses and opt instead for less expensive, family-friendly activities, such as camping trips, hiking adventures or visiting a free art gallery.

Reap the rewards
From grocery store chains that offer gasoline discounts to clothing retailers who offer special member incentives, rewards programs provide truly great perks for families trying to save some dough. Even popular search engines are joining in on the fun of rewarding members for their loyalty.

Get rid of unused items
Encourage every family member to clean out their drawers, closets and spaces to get rid of things they no longer use. Start a yard sale or take the items to a consignment shop to earn extra cash. You can also donate the items to a local charity for a tax deduction.

Give homemade gifts
Family life comes with its many gift-giving opportunities — from birthdays to holidays to special life milestones. Because these occasions happen often, all of the purchases can add up. Put your creative juices to work and visit your local craft or hobby store for homemade gifts your family and friends will treasure.

Be smart with utilities
Encouraging your family members to adopt small, money-saving practices can save you big on monthly expenses. Simply turning off lights when they aren’t in use, reducing shower times and using a clothesline are just a few ways to reduce overall household consumption. These activities also offer an important lesson to children about conservation and sustainable practices.

Source: Bing

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer First Aid for Furry Friends

June 30, 2014 1:04 am

Summer is here, and families and their pets are heading outdoors to enjoy warm-weather adventures. During this season, cats and dogs are more prone to injury or illness due to increased activity, higher temperatures, and more interaction with other animals and humans. Experts at On the Floor @Dove, a leading, online veterinary training and certification program, identify the top five summer pet dangers and offers some tips on first aid and prevention.

• Heatstroke: To prevent heatstroke, avoid exercising dogs during the heat of the day. If they must be outside, make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water. Cats can suffer heatstroke too, but it occurs more often when they are trapped in a garage, attic or car. First aid treatment is to begin the cooling process by soaking the animal in room-temperature water and immediately seeking medical care

• Hiking injuries: Be sure to bring enough water for your dog, and always keep him on a leash; this will keep him from falling off a cliff, eating toxic plants or attacking wildlife. Hiking dogs frequently suffer small abrasions, so carry bandage material with you to cover any open wounds until they can be evaluated by a veterinarian.

• Fights: Do not try to separate the animals with your bare hands and risk serious injury. If you want to clean your pet's surface wounds (and the animal allows it), use only mild soap and water (avoid hydrogen peroxide, as it is toxic to living cells). All deep bite wounds should be examined by a veterinarian.

• Outdoor pests: Insects are out in force, and occasionally they cause trouble for pets, especially dogs. A veterinarian can provide treatment to stop the allergic reaction and reduce the inflammation.

• Food-related issues: Barbecues and backyard parties bring friends and good food together, but they also create the opportunity for pets to eat things they shouldn't. Watch your pets closely during outside parties and keep them away from grease drip trays, bones, corncobs, garbage and eager-to-share guests.

Source: DoveLewis

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Transform Small Spaces into Charming Places

June 30, 2014 1:04 am

(Family Features) In home listings across the country, the word small is often replaced with a far more marketable and appealing word: “charming.” But what makes a home charming compared to small? How does a homeowner transition a cramped room into a space with unique and appealing character?

Create special spaces and storage
Carefully consider the functions of any space, such as TV viewing, reading or computer use, so that only the items needed for those specific functions are stored there. Understanding how this space is utilized will make it easier to establish dedicated zones and supplies for each activity. Be sure to also create proper storage to manage and maintain a clutter-free home.

Make it larger with lighting

Clearing a small home of its clutter will automatically make it seem larger. However, the illusion of more space can also be enhanced with proper lighting. The right lighting will also play a big role in helping create a more charming feel.

Recessed lighting is visually appealing and perfect for small spaces. You can also affect a room’s lighting with low-cost or no-cost solutions that make the most of the space’s built-in features. For example, highlight windows instead of covering them, or make the fireplace a focal point.

Add charming details
Woodwork is another simple embellishment that adds instant character and charm without affecting usable space. A chair rail, crown molding or even baseboards can help take a standard room and outline it with interesting architectural elements.

By managing clutter, using lighting to create bright and airy spaces and incorporating simple architectural elements, you can easily transform a cramped area into a charming and inviting room that you – or a potential buyer – can enjoy.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Trendy Bathroom Upgrades

June 30, 2014 1:04 am

(BPT) – Home website Houzz recently polled homeowners, asking what bathroom improvements they desired most. Many of the answers were both luxurious and affordable, and others were downright simple changes to make. Here are five hot bathroom upgrades and some ideas for incorporating them into your home:

1. Skylights
In rooms where privacy is a concern, skylights can provide both natural light and ventilation. They're beautiful, endowing bathrooms with a major "wow" factor, and practical; Energy Star-qualified no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights can help trim electricity costs by providing natural light and passively venting moist, warm air from the room.

2. Lighted vanity mirror
Home improvement stores, design studios and online retailers carry a variety of lighted vanities in shapes, sizes, styles and light sources (LED, CFL or incandescent) to suit virtually every taste. Installing one is a simple do-it-yourself job that has a big impact on a bathroom's appearance and usability.

3. Double-flush toilet
Dual-flush toilets use only the water you need to get the job done, so they contribute positively to a home's overall footprint and can help save on water bills. They’re a lower-cost upgrade, and even more cost-effective when installed by a savvy DIYer.

4. Towel warmers
Wall-mounted or free-standing, plug-in or hard-wired, all towel warmers work the same way; heated bars warm towels hung on the rack, providing a cozy, warm towel every time you bathe. Plug-in versions install easily, while hard-wired ones may require professional installation.

5. Shower foot rest

Foot rests are an economical improvement – some suction-cup styles cost under $20. For a more refined look or enhanced sturdiness, it's possible to find one that anchors into the wall through screws, or a style built into shower surrounds. If you're redoing your shower stall, it's the perfect time to add a stylish, sturdy foot rest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Fresh Interior Design Trends Using Wood

June 27, 2014 1:18 am

(BPT) - Wood may be known for its timeless visual appeal, but there's nothing static about the way people showcase it in American homes. Designers, homeowners and DIYers are re-discovering the warmth and beauty of wood. From inventive new uses to re-interpretations of existing styles, here are five fresh ways homeowners can incorporate wood in their homes.

Statement walls
Paneling, wainscoting and appearance walls are big trend setters. Different types of interior wood finishes reflect different styles. For example, leaving wood paneling unfinished can create the ambiance of a coastal beach house or a rustic cabin. Designers also like to mix different woods and finishes on appearance walls to add visual depth to a room.

Playing with scale
Designers are also playing with the scale of wainscoting, using it to enhance smaller rooms. A wainscot treatment brings the eye up and makes a room feel a bit taller, adding dimension and scale to smaller spaces.

Crown molding bridges the junction of walls and ceilings - a prominent visual location where an architectural accent can really shine. A contemporary use of molding is to apply a larger size of molding relative to the scale of the room. A larger baseboard, for example, grounds a room with higher ceilings, creating definition while maintaining flow in open floor plans.

Natural color and texture
The natural color of different woods reflects a certain tone, depending on which type the homeowner opts for. Darker woods, for example, lend a modern or glamorous touch, and lighter woods create a softer, more airy look.

In addition to color, each species' unique grain patterns complement and enhance a variety of interior styles. For example, the light and consistently lineal pattern of fir works well with a contemporary interior with its clean lines and greater symmetry. Wood with a more pronounced grain pattern, like pine, lends a more traditional and rustic feel.

Finished ceilings
Often homeowners forget about the ceiling, leaving it exactly as it was when the house was built. However, wood on the ceiling can add architectural interest to the room, and attract the eye upward to explore the space.

Use wood trim, plank, decking or even siding on the ceiling to raise the decorative elements in the room to a new level. Visitors will be sure to stop and pause when they first notice the attractive style of the "fifth wall."

Reclaimed wood
Upcycling wood found in barns and older buildings gives homeowners the chance to bring new life to beautifully aged wood. Reuse barn doors for headboards on beds, or create a table out of old wood planks. Sliding doors are also popular in homes that don't have the space for a hinged door.

Weathered wood has a unique quality that can really add character to a space. Leave the wood weathered or grayed, or you can refinish the wood for a polished look.

For more project inspiration, visit the Wood, Naturally website.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summertime Homeowner's Insurance Considerations

June 27, 2014 1:18 am

The summer season means poolside weekends, outdoor recreation and long-awaited travel plans. While you’re out having fun in the sun, be sure your homeowner’s insurance applies to seasonal hazards, which can put you in the red if you don’t have adequate coverage. Keep these areas in mind:

• Pool Insurance – Pool accidents are much more common than you think – and if they happen in your backyard, you’ll be liable. Protect yourself from paying sky-high medical expenses or going through legal proceedings by ensuring you have the right amount of coverage. For a maximum safeguard, adopt an umbrella policy.

• Home Rental – If you’re planning to rent out your home for vacation use, be certain you meet all insurance requirements: some allow short-term rentals under your regular policy, but others may call for more coverage. Additionally, long-term rentals can cost up to 25 percent more. Regular rentals (not for vacation use) will not be covered.

• Vacation Rentals – If you’re the renter, speak with your agent about whether your homeowner’s insurance covers damage where you’re renting. If you’re booking through an online portal, check to see if there’s a policy in place for unforeseen events.

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Financial Risks to Consider in Retirement

June 27, 2014 1:18 am

Most people don’t know that 80 percent of mountain-climbing accidents don’t occur on the way to the summit – they happen on the way down, says financial expert and extreme sports enthusiast David Rosell.

Although arriving at the top of the mountain is considered by many mountaineers to be one of life’s greatest accomplishments, I can tell you firsthand that summiting is not the ultimate goal for climbers,” says Rosell, CEO of Rosell Wealth Management and author of “Failure is NOT an Option,” (www.DavidRosell.com).

“They know that most climbing accidents and deaths occur on the descent. With this in mind, they will tell you that their objective is to reach the summit and get back down alive to see their family and friends. They understand that the second half of their journey presents the greatest risk and requires the most planning.”

“Likewise, we need to think of retirement as the descent from the financial mountain, which can be treacherous.”

Retirees and pre-retirees need to evolve from the traditional view of retirement, especially with so much legitimate concern about an unprecedented retirement crisis on our immediate horizon, he says. According to a 2013 report by the National Institute on Retirement Security, 45 percent of working-age American households have no retirement savings.

That’s on top of the 3.5 million baby boomers who have been retiring each year, and will continue to do so for more than a decade.

To help his clients thrive while experiencing descending their own financial mountains, Rosell briefly touches upon five major financial risks many experience during retirement.

• Inflation: During the second half of your financial journey, it’s critical that you’re able to maintain your purchasing power. Inflation simply means that every year your money buys a little – or a lot – less than it did the year before. Currently, inflation is 3.5 percent, which doesn’t sound like much. However, even if the rate holds steady and doesn’t increase, prices will have doubled in 20 years.

• Longevity: According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the over-80 population is increasing five times faster than the overall population. By 2030, the demographics of 32 states will resemble those of Florida today. With more golden years to play, you’ll want the funding to make them fun! “Today,” Rosell says, “going gray means time to play.”

• Health/long-term care: Sadly, the escalating costs associated with long-term care during retirement can make the possibility of outliving one’s retirement income a reality for many. Statistics reveal that as we age, there’s an increased probability of our eventually needing assistance with basic daily activities. The truth is that most of us will need long-term care in our later years.

• Market risk: Economic recessions have occurred throughout the history of modern economics and always will, averaging one almost every nine years. If the market loses 50 percent one year and then increases 50 percent the following year, where are you? Many people get this wrong; after the fall and subsequent rise of 50 percent, you will have lost 25 percent. "This happened twice in the last decade," Rosell says.

• The sequence of returns: Gains or losses, or the order in which you receive your returns, can have a major impact on your retirement portfolio. It can mean the difference between having enough income in retirement and running out of money too soon. Be careful when an analysis states that you should achieve your goals by obtaining a specific rate of return. In most cases, this statement has not accounted for the sequence of returns.

“These are by no means the only tricky slopes that may have an affect on your retirement,” Rosell says. “Just as you have worked a lifetime to have money for your golden years, now is the time to manage your wealth wisely."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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